Last Night's TV - The Young Ones, BBC1; First Light, BBC2; Wellington Bomber, BBC4

Let's do the time warp again

When you hear someone using the word "experiment" on television you can usually be sure that it is being applied in its loosest possible sense. It's intended to convey a perfume of scientific rigour, when what is actually being done often has all the methodological stringency of a five year old pouring Ribena into an ant's nest. Watching
The Young Ones – which sets out to replicate a famous Harvard experiment into the effects of mental attitude on the ageing process – it may have occurred to you that not a few controls were missing. The procedure was this: six ageing celebrities were taken to a house decorated and equipped as if it was the mid Seventies. Nothing that entered the house – including television transmissions and newspapers – came from a later date and they were encouraged to think, talk and behave as if they actually had been taken back more than 30 years. Even their bedrooms were, where possible, exact replicas of those they'd occupied back in 1975. Naturally, within hours of entering the house the observers – who included Ellen Langer, the psychologist who first applied this lateral form of rejuvenation – were detecting signs of increased vigour and sprightliness in their elderly guinea pigs. How can they be sure, though, that irritation at being put through silly hoops for a television programme wasn't the active ingredient, rather than the orange shag pile carpets and the Betamax video recorder?

The shag pile carpet, incidentally, presented another scientific problem, since it was in place for two quite different reasons: to summon Proustian memories of the decade that taste forgot but also to provide a kind of gentle geriatric assault course. One of the rules of the house was that no one would be treated as if they were elderly and infirm. So, no stairlifts and lots of uneven surfaces to provide an extra bodily challenge. As Derek Jameson huffed his way up the stairs, hauling a suitcase behind him, he grouched loudly about the impossibility of the task. "It'll kill me," he complained, making you wonder briefly how exactly the BBC press office would have spun his death if it had. The observers sat tight as he heaved and gasped, happy to congratulate Jameson for completing the task, but not to assist him with it. "You can be helped to death," said Langer sternly. And again, it occurred to you that this tough-love, use-it-or-lose-it strategy might work perfectly well without the hideous Seventies wallpaper or mind-scrambling three-piece suite.

Not really an experiment at all then, but modestly watchable for all that, as a kind of Saga holiday version of Celebrity Big Brother. There is already enjoyable evidence of rampant denial (Lionel Blair standing in his shrieking yellow bedroom and insisting that he "never" would have slept in purple sheets, when the accompanying photograph of his bedroom proved otherwise) and promising tetchiness from some quarters (Sylvia Syms, who snaps at every hint of condescension). There was also an entertaining moment that demonstrated that going back in time may not involve quite as much travel for some participants as others. Presented with a classic Seventies party spread – cheese and pineapple hedgehog, vol-au-vents and prawn cocktail – the cricket umpire Dickie Bird was well pleased. "I think it's a nice buffet," he said. "Well... it's lovely... if you're a Northerner," Syms said scornfully. And yes, they do look a touch more upright and lively already, but wouldn't they anyway since they know that everything they do is going to be shown on telly? There's a fountain of youth, if you want one.

Eighty and 90 year olds were also taken back to their heyday in First Light and Wellington Bomber, two of the programmes marking the BBC's commemoration of the Battle of Britain. The first – a docudrama based on Geoffrey Wellum's excellent memoir of the same name – achieved the implausible task of making the subject a tiny bit dull, partly because of a creditable desire to reflect the intense psychological strain on the pilots, but also because it seemed to list towards the clichés of genre war films. "It's all right," said a pilot as the scramble bell rang, "I'll get another six when I'm back," and instantly you know that it's his plane they'll anxiously be scanning the skies for when the sortie returns, though you might not have predicted the meaningful close-up on the abandoned bat. Wellington Bomber – a documentary built around a wartime propaganda stunt in which aircraft workers constructed a plane in under 30 hours – was more successful at conveying the intensity of those years and the poignancy of looking back at them now, mostly because the intensity of the individual voices hadn't been varnished with actorly intensity. "You couldn't call it dancing," said one old lady recalling her husband's performance on the dance floor, "it was like taking a wheelbarrow round the room." And an ex-Wellington bomber pilot called "Tiny" Cooling heartbreakingly recalled a young flyer called Naylor ("everybody liked him but nobody took the blindest bit of notice of him because he looked like he was just out of his pram") coming into his room at the base and weeping like a child because his best friend hadn't returned. Three weeks later, Cooling was clearing out Naylor's barracks room because he hadn't returned from a mission. Ways of making you feel younger than you are may be disputed. But if you want to make young men feel a hundred years old war seems to work every time.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine